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Columnist: This might be the worst Sabres team in a decade

Jan 20, 2012, 2:40 PM EST

Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth AP

With the Sabres nine points out of a playoff spot and riding a 11-game road losing streak, Buffalo News scribe John Vogl is wondering if this team is as bad as the one he started covering 10 years ago.

“I’ve been covering the Sabres for a decade,” he writes. “The worst team was the first team. This year’s squad is giving that one competition.”

The 2002-02 Sabres went 27-37-10-8, good enough for 12th in the East and 26th in the NHL.

The current Sabres are 19-23-5, good enough for 11th in the East and 23rd in the NHL.

Vogl goes on to highlight several similarities between the two teams. Both had troubles scoring goals and equal trouble preventing them; both lacked, as Vogl puts it, an “embraceable player to latch on to, the kind you believe can carry a team by himself.”

Another similarity between the 2002-02 and 2011-12 Sabres is the reliance on minor league call-ups. The 02-03 Sabres featured appearances from the likes of Norm Milley, Jason Botterill, Jaroslav Kristek and Doug Houda (okay, Houda only played one game) while the 11-12 Sabres have been forced to call up the likes of Derek Whitmore, Joe Finley, Colin Stuart and Paul Szczechura due to a myriad of injuries.

That said, there is one key difference between the two teams. Owner Terry Pegula spent big bucks assembling the current Buffalo squad and expectations were sky high coming into the year.

The bar for the 2002-03 team was set much lower.

There was little hope. Bankruptcy was coming, and no one knew who’d be in control of the team.

At least in 2002-03, the Sabres knew they were bad. They traded Chris Gratton, Stu Barnes, Vaclav Varada and Rob Ray to try and build for the future. One prize was Danny Briere, who did indeed help the future.

This year’s squad keeps saying it will be better when healthy. There’s no talk of building for the future.

Vogl warns of what’s to come should the Sabres fail to improve when they get healthy.

“If they don’t,” he writes, “the question of the worst team in a decade becomes a no-brainer.”

  1. bigtganks - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Have fun Erhoff…

  2. rabidbillsfan - Jan 20, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    I totally agree. I look at this team and say ” Who stands out a the definieing ‘go-to-guy’”? My answer is always no-body. The worst part? Guys like Ellis, Gerbe, and Kaleta have the heart of warriors, but are either not talented enough, or too small. Guys like Roy, Stafford, Miller, Ehrhoff, Leino, and even Myers just seem to go through the motions. I can say i am a die-hard fan because I haven’t missed a game yet, but that still hasn’t stopped the thought of tuning this team out into my brain. Its painful to watch. At this point, it’s not a coach problem. Right now, the accountability has to be on the guys who wear the skates. I don’t care what we get for Roy, but ship him out. I’m sure that will send a clear enough message. Roy has been regarded as a piece of the foundation for this franchise, however he’s a complete tool, and his play of late is bad. He’s a Lindy guy too, so if he moves him, maybe it will show the other guys who have been here “Wow, maybe no body is untouchable.” This isn’t the Bills, money was spent on this team. Something needs to happen, and soon, the last home game had more Leafs fans then Sabres fans, and it wasn’t even close.

    • yettyskills - Jan 20, 2012 at 6:15 PM

      Who on the Bruins is the go-to-guy?
      Otherwise I agree and feel bad that they have played so poorly after new ownership took over, maybe he made things so nice compared to before that they have become soft. They looked like they were a top 8 team in the east and have failed.

  3. davebrownspiral - Jan 20, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    I remember coming on here early in the season and hearing everybody and their mother proclaiming the Sabres were the “team to beat” in Eastern Conference. It’s a long season, but the Sabres look awful. But, what the hell do I know, I thought my Islanders were primed for a playoff season.

  4. ralphwilsonsucks - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    The former owner is laughing right now. How does this team just completely fall apart? There must a huge rift somewhere in that locker room.

  5. crazemastercraze - Jan 21, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    how can they go from being so good to so bad? sometimes i think that there is a collective agreement between the players to play like shit if they’ve had it with the coaching staff and want to get them fired… as crazy as that might sound.

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